Constituent policy

Nixa Public Schools changes library policy banning books under fire

When Heidi Hadley stepped onto the lectern at a Nixa School Board meeting earlier this week, the worried parent referenced “hyper-political” elements in her burgeoning community.

There seemed to be a partisan line drawn in the ranks of the parents seated behind her.

After Hadley, a Missouri State professor, railed against the board decision to ban several books with mature content, a group on the left side of the Faught admin center room cheered.

Elsewhere in the meeting, cheers erupted from the right side of the room after Nixa’s mother, Jennifer Rosebrock, expressed concern about the “green component” of her daughter’s science class.

The school board was due to review its book policies at Tuesday’s meeting and most seats were filled early. All but one of the six people who spoke during the public comment period criticized the board’s decision in May to remove two books and restrict another.

After:Nixa School Board Bans Gay Memoir ‘Fun Home’ and ‘All Boys Aren’t Blue’, Restricts Others

What many said they didn’t know until recently is that the Nixa School Board made additional changes to its library policies during the summer months.

The Nixa School Board posted updates to five existing policies on the “consent” agenda for the June 28 meeting, meaning no discussion was scheduled, but did not establish link to old or new versions of the policies or provide a description of the changes.

The policies included:

  • ODHR – Public Participation in Board Meetings
  • JFGA – Student Interviews or Withdrawals
  • KLB-AP1 – Public Questions, Comments, or Concerns Regarding District Instructional, Multimedia, or Library Materials
  • IIAC – Educational media, school libraries
  • IIAC-R1 – Educational media centers, selection of school libraries and review of materials

An addition is a line stating that “Materials must not contain sexually explicit language, illustrations, or images unless they meet a specific curricular need” – an apparent nod to a state law entered into force in August prohibiting public and private schools from provide access to books with sexually explicit content.

On the online agenda, the board provided the name of the BDDA and JFGA policies, but not the others, which dealt with library books, which has been a hot topic at school board meetings this year.

The board voted 5-0 to approve the changes. Two members, Brent Dunn and Heather Zoromski, were absent.

Parents say June changes weren’t transparent

Several Nixa parents opposed to the book bans said Tuesday they had not received sufficient notice before the board votes to approve revisions to the school’s library and media policies as part of its program. of consent on June 28.

Items on a consent agenda are generally not discussed individually and are instead approved as part of a single action.

Nixa School Board members heard about two hours of public comment before voting in May to ban two books, "Fun Home: A Tragicomic Family" and "Not All Boys Are Blue: A Memory Manifesto" as well as restricting access to a third book, "Back home."

Jeremy Hayes, the father of the Nixa students, wanted a chance to speak before the revisions were put to a vote, but said they had not been publicized enough.

An electronic copy of the June 28 agenda, which the district is making available online, lists proposed updates to “Policy KLB-AP1, IIAC, and IIAC-R1” among several other actions for approval as that group.

The actual changes are not detailed, and unlike the other updates offered which include a plain English description – “Policy JFGA – Interviews With or Removal of Students” is an example – the book’s policy changes are only mentioned by their alphanumeric titles.

Hayes didn’t seem to think it was an accidental omission.

“When information is withheld and delayed, there is an appearance of mistrust and that allows misinformation and lies to be perpetrated,” Hayes said. “(If) you, as a group, think what you are doing is right, then why withhold information? The agenda for the June 28 board meeting was released four days before the meeting.”

The board has posted policy updates on the “consent” agenda in the past, but generally links to policies and does a first and second reading of policies before the vote, which does not s is not produced in this case. For example, the first reading policy updates at the November 2021 meeting were approved at the December meeting. This pattern repeated itself in April and May of this year.

Zac Rantz, communications manager for Nixa Public Schools, said sometimes there were two readings and sometimes not.

“There is a combination of ways the school district does it. Sometimes policies are introduced and there will be a first reading about them and other times if things need to be updated based on events they can just put them on the consent agenda,” did he declare. “It’s a mix based on the specific policy and the specific situation that’s happening.”

Asked why policies regarding the selection and review of library materials were placed on the consent agenda when the topic has generated great public interest, Rantz replied that he did not know. . “It would have been a decision of the board of directors.”

Rantz said meeting agendas are set by Board Chair Linda Daugherty and Vice Chair Josh Roberts, who were among five members to approve the policy updates on June 28.

Hayes, who said the text of the June changes was not posted on the school’s website until September, asked the board to defer further action until next month’s board meeting.

“Putting it on the agenda 24 hours before is not giving public notice,” he said.

The board ultimately voted to table further measures on the book policy until next month.

After:ACLU tells Nixa schools to preserve evidence, warns of possible book ban lawsuits

Other speakers worried that council members discussed book ban issues behind closed doors rather than in a public forum.

Elizabeth Dudash-Buskirk, associate professor of sociopolitical communication and rhetoric, echoed Hayes’ calls for transparency.

“A consent program was passed without any public knowledge,” Dudash-Buskirk said. “We had correspondence today, and that correspondence requested that we be advised of the policy that has been adopted and amended. By doing this alone, we were able to see it on the consent agenda tonight.”

Dudash-Buskirk added: “There is no reason for these new policies, especially without some level of transparency.”

Rantz said policy updates approved at the June 28 meeting were put on the agenda for the September 13 meeting because the board did not give the public sufficient notice of the changes. offered.

“The board has seen the policies. They were not visible to the public. Because the text was not publicly viewable, the board wanted to put them back on the agenda so people could see the full wording,” he said. “What the council could see was not what the public could see, so that’s what they wanted to fix. If people wanted to comment on the content of those specific policies, they could see the wording of those policies and comment.

Critics say changes to book access are unnecessary

All but one of the public comments on Tuesday referred to the book ban. Each of these five speakers deemed it unnecessary.

Hadley, an English teacher with students currently enrolled in Nixa schools, believes librarians should have more of a say in the process.

“Developing policies that deprive media specialists of the ability to meet the needs of their student population in their selection of books and media centers in their classrooms is, quite frankly, malpractice in education,” Hadley said.

His son, Spencer Hadley, a student at Nixa High School, said his library had an adequate approach to book restrictions before the school voted to ban several titles.

“The library already has several common-sense policies to allow parents to prevent their children from obtaining books they deem inappropriate without interfering with the decisions of other parents,” Spencer said.

After Spencer spoke and received thunderous applause, a man shouted “this is going to fall on deaf ears”.

After:‘Constant vitriol and hatred’ – Pro-LGBTQ Nixa councilor quits amid recall effort

What books were banned from Nixa?

The queer memoirs “Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic” and “All Boys Are not Blue: A Memoir-Manifesto” were banned earlier this year.

A third book, “Homegoing,” has been restricted but is still accessible with parental permission.

Some parents want these 15 books removed from the Nixa High School library.

The complaints against the books initially came from a private Facebook group. Before last year, Nixa had only seen one official complaint against a book over the past 15 years.

Nixa senior Marielle Chu said access to mature, teachable content should be commonplace for high school students.

“I want to show that it is practically impossible to protect children from sexual content or to protect children from sexual content,” Chu said in a public comment. “We are not dealing with prepubescent children finding books with graphic sex scenes. They are high school students.”

Education journalist Claudette Riley contributed to this report.